It did not come easy.
The Lady Spartans (10-4, 3-0) gained the district lead with a 25-20, 17-25 25-16, 21-25, 16-14 road win over previously unbeaten Thomas Walker (6-1, 2-1).
“We didn’t expect anything different,” Eastside coach Brianne Bailey said of having to go the distance against the Lady Pioneers. “We expected to come over and have to fight for every point and that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes we got lucky breaks, sometimes they got lucky breaks. That’s how the game of volleyball goes.”
Both teams also made some of their breaks.
In the first set, Eastside trailed 16-8 before using a 10-0 run to take an 18-16 lead. Thomas Walker battled back to regain a 19-18 advantage before Eastside ended the set with a 7-2 run to go ahead 1-0 in the match.
Thomas Walker then used a big run — outscoring the Lady Spartans 9-1 down the stretch — to break a 16-16 tie and take the second set.
The trend continued in the third, Eastside again using a run to secure the win. The Lady Spartans led 17-15 before pulling away.
In the fourth, Thomas Walker led by as many as eight points before holding off Eastside to take the four-point win and set up the winner-take-all fifth.
THE FINAL SET
The teams battled point for point in the deciding set.
A block from Eastside’s Kaylee Yates and Anna Whited gave the Lady Spartans an 11-10 lead.
Thomas Walker battled back ahead 14-13 on a kill from Madison Mayes.
Eastside responded again, this time with three unanswered points on a Thomas Walker return error and two kills from Whited, to take the match.
GOING THE DISTANCE
Tuesday was the first time this season Thomas Walker was pushed to more than three games, and the loss to longtime Cumberland power Eastside was tough one for the up-and-coming Lady Pioneers.
“It was a five-set game and it’s Eastside,” Thomas Walker coach Kristen Parker said. “In the past we haven’t been competitive and this is the second year that we’ve been competitive and it’s showing them we can play with these teams. We are good enough to be here.
“It doesn’t matter what name is on the jersey that we’re playing, we deserve to play with anybody.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Whited finished with 21 kills, three blocks, 12 digs and five aces, and Laura Lanteri had eight kills, 14 digs and seven aces for Eastside. Tinley Hamilton added 28 assists and five kills, and Yates had seven kills and seven blocks.
The Lady Spartans also got 18 digs and five aces from Leci Sensabaugh, Kacie Jones totaled 22 digs and Cloey Bailey finished with four aces.
Thomas Walker got 15 kills and two blocks from Talyn Dibrell. Mayes had 12 kills and 30 digs and Lakin Burke finished with nine kills.
The Lady Pioneers also got 38 assists, 21 digs and four aces from Isabella Schwartz, Savannah Hall had 35 digs and Kaytee Livesay added 17.